Department of Defence underfunded by 50%


With a budget of R49 billion for the current financial year, the Department of Defence (DoD) is underfunded by 50%, as its full cost funding requirement is R75 billion, and this shortfall poses a multitude of risks to the functioning of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF).

The Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) on Wednesday heard that the DoD is underfunded by R26.5 billion, and over the next few years the situation will not improve, as the defence budget for 2023/24 will drop to R47.959 billion before increasing slightly in 2024/25 to R49.277 billion.

According to the DoD’s 2022 Annual Performance Plan (APP), the Administrative Programme of the DoD in 2022/23 is allocated R5.7 billion but requires R7.2 billion and the R1.5 billion shortfall “will continue placing constraints on the availability of appropriate human resources, organisational structures and ICT support.”

The Force Employment Programme is suffering a R1.6 billion shortfall (R3.7 billion allocated versus R5.3 billion required), which “will adversely impact on the ability of the Programme to provide mission-ready forces and special operational capabilities to meet the SA Defence Review 2015 and National Government requirements/obligations in participation and support to external and internal deployments, as well as participation in multinational exercises with identified stakeholders.

“The limited budget allocated may adversely impact on the ability of the SANDF to ensure the required levels of operational serviceability of main equipment and facilities deployed during internal, support to the C SANDF and other Departments during humanitarian and disaster relief, search and rescue operations and external operations in support of the UN and AU peacekeeping operations,” the PCDMV heard.

The Landward Defence Programme faces an R11.3 billion shortfall (R15.5 billion allocated), which, according to the Annual Performance Plan, will adversely impact on the preparation and provision of combat-ready landward capabilities and the renewal and maintenance of combat-ready operational capabilities within the SA Army in support of force employment requirements.

Similarly, the R2.8 billion shortfall for Air Defence (R6.2 billion allocated) “will adversely impact on the preparation and provision of combat-ready air defence capabilities, maintenance backlog, maintenance of capabilities and aviation safety within the Programme. Due to the budget reduction, the Air Defence Programme will reduce the number of learners on military development courses for the FY2022/23,” the APP stated. In 2021/22, the South African Air Force flew 17 100 hours, but the allocation for the next three years drops to 12 000 a year.

Maritime Defence is underfunded by R2.9 billion (R4.6 billion allocated), which will adversely impact on the preparation and provision of combat-ready maritime defence capabilities, constraining the ability of the SA Navy to deploy naval capabilities to meet deployment requirements of the Maritime Security Strategy.

“Owing to budget constraints, the SA Navy will not be able to up-scale the Naval Station Durban to a fully functioning operational Naval Base,” the PCDMV heard, and the financial allocation shortfall “will have an impact on the ability of the SA Navy to honour its international hydrographic obligations.”

Military Health Support is also affected, with R5.5 billion allocated in 2022 versus R9 billion required, affecting the SA Military Health Service’s ability to meet staff requirements, replace obsolete equipment, upgrade deteriorating facilities and renew required technology.

“Furthermore, the budget reduction impacts negatively on the SAMHS’s ability to meet the legal requirements for accreditation of medical personnel at health training institutions and at the South African Nursing College,” the presentation to the PCDMV stated.

Defence Intelligence needs another R175 million (R1.15 billion allocated), affecting intelligence gathering and counter-intelligence operations, while General Support needs another R1.6 billion (R6.5 billion allocated) to maintain DoD facilities and staff the Defence Works Formation. The Military Police in 2022/23 is allocated R719 million but requires R1.1 billion.

As pointed out to the National Treasury in August last year, some of the broad implications of the declining DoD budget allocation include:

Non-implementation of the SA Defence Review 2015;

Non-compliance with the National Security Strategy (NSS) Border Safeguarding requirement for 22 sub-units and the establishment of a Cyber Warfare Capability (15 sub-units, or companies, are currently deployed on the borders);

Inability to modernize and sustain prime-mission equipment to meet the current and future security requirements of South Africa;

Inability to maintain and refurbish defence facilities resulting in further the deterioration of facilities;

Reduction/cancellation of formal training courses and joint interdepartmental, agency and multi-national exercises, adversely impacting on the safety of troops during deployments and combat readiness;

Inability to maintain set stock levels (ammunition, spares, rations, pharmaceuticals and medical consumables);

Reduction of the Special Defence Account (SDA), leading to a potential loss of the sovereign defence industry and litigation on projects that have been contracted. In the future, the DoD may be required to make use of external defence industries at a huge cost. In a situation of war or external aggression, South Africa will not have its own Defence industry for weapon, prime-mission equipment and ammunition modernization and manufacturing.